At a county board of elections meeting, the council voted to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from being recited before each gathering. However, once defiant protesters stood and honored the flag, the chairwoman threatened the “disrupters” with a call to the police.
In what’s been considered a partisan move, the Bladen County Board of Elections voted to ban the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance before all its meetings. Chairwoman Louella Thompson (D) and two of her fellow council members passed the measure along party lines, ensuring not only that they wouldn’t recognize the American flag but also that no one in attendance would be allowed to do so either.
According to the Pluralist, Republican councilman Emory White introduced a measure to permanently establish the Pledge as an aspect of the agenda only to have his proposal shot down by his Democrat counterparts in a vote of 3-2. Arguing for the measure, White questioned why they would all agree to prayer before the meetings but shun the Pledge.
“Being in the military, we honor the flag all the time in the military,” he said. “I just think it should be on the agenda. There is no way we should have a meeting without it. It’s like having a prayer. Why do we object to the Pledge of Allegiance?”
Thompson ignored all arguments in favor of reciting the Pledge, responding dismissively that it’s her “right” as chairwoman to remove the rights of others and she will “exercise it.” The meeting consisted wholly of debates from both the minority members of the board and the attendees insisting that Thompson recognize their right to honor their country’s flag.
Several citizens spoke out against the board’s vote. One man even pointed out that, while it would be out of line to force someone to pledge their allegiance to our nation’s flag, it’s just as wrong to prohibit others from choosing to do so.
“You have an opportunity here to make a statement about what’s right and what’s wrong, and it’s right to say the pledge. It really is,” said a man who identified himself as Dan Smith. “If you don’t want to recite it, by all means don’t recite it. If you don’t want to stand up, by all means don’t stand up. But give the other people and opportunity to do so. and that’s not a lot to ask. That’s compromise, and that’s what we need in this country.”
Indignant over the resolution, Smith then stood up and led the audience in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Although the two Republican board members joined the crowd in honoring the flag, Thompson objected, calling the move “out of order” and threatening to have them all arrested, The Charlotte Observer reports.
“If that happens again law enforcement will be called,” Thompson said. “It is against the law to disrupt a meeting. That is going on and that is what happened today with the reciting of the Pledge.”
To ensure that no one else is allowed to protest at the meetings, Thompson has called for “a deputy to control the crowd for disruptions” at future gatherings. According to Elections Board Director Christopher Williams, she has the power to deem any action a disruption and order an offender’s arrest.
“The board voted 3 to 2 to deny the request (to add the Pledge). A few individuals present refused to accept the decision … and disrupted the meeting,” Thompson told the station. “Those present were … told that any future disruption would result in arrest.”
The board has every right to prohibit the Pledge of Allegiance from being recited at its meetings and even silencing protesters who disrupt proceedings. However, citizens still have the right to protest outside of meetings and, more importantly, to vote the board members out of office. Hopefully, they continue to exercise these rights.
The Pledge of Allegiance and the American flag represent one’s loyalty to the interests of the nation and its people — not any government or political party, and certainly not any race. If the council members do not align their allegiance with the American people, then which nation’s people and interests do they avow to serve?